BSFA Review – Vector #273
Like many people of my generation, any return to the parental home is accompanied not only by love and over-feeding but by entreaties to go into the loft and get rid of some of the crap up there. I am typing this having just returned from one such excursion where I was charmed to find a box my mother had labelled “Martin’s graphic booklets”. Thankfully, rather than self-published pornography, this contained a grab-bag of comics; random issues of Spiderman, Superman, Mask, Zoids and The Eagle that were testament to my erratic history as a child reader of the form.
The only comic I read consistently was “AD 2000” (as another labelled box puts it) and I gave that up in the mid-Nineties. So reading the latest Judge Dredd collection, Day Of Chaos: The Fourth Faction, was an exercise both in nostalgia and time-slip. There he is on the cover: helmet and eagle, scowl and lawgiver. It is like turning on Eastenders to find that the Mitchell brothers still rule the roost. Unlike his rival for title of most significant figure in British science fiction, Mega City One’s judge, jury and executioner has never needed to regenerate. However, whilst I can think of few things worse than Dredd’s granite jaw being replaced by a floppy fringe, he could stand to move with the times a bit.
The Fourth Faction is written by his co-creator John Wagner and is a sort of sequel to The Apocalypse War, a cold war era story by Wagner and Alan Grant in which the dirty Sovs invade Mega City One only for Dredd to turn the tables on them by committing thermonuclear genocide against the motherland. Thirty years later, what is more striking than its lack of moral scruples is its obsolesce; the idea of Russian invasion seems quaint and even nuclear war is a dead nightmare.
The gist of the new story is that the fourth faction are Sov fifth columnists who have infiltrated the city bent on revenge. However, this is obscured by a load of old flannel about serial killers, some unintelligible internal politics and a tone that is every bit as redundant as the story line. This means heavy-handed satire on those opposed to gun control voiced by a character called Jerker McKnee; the use of obesity as joke with projectile vomiting as the punchline; corny puns and references like a tower block named after Ed Gein or a film poster featuring ‘Urb Karlan’.
This is a reference to the star of the 2012 film Dredd which both eradicated memories of the 1995 turkey starring Sylvester Stallone and showed that the iconic character was still relevant. Unfortunately the same can’t be said of this collection, something made starkly clear by its treatment of women. Early on, when a female judge goes on her own to investigate a suspicion, she is striped naked and tied up. The film cleverly subverted the possibility of sexual assault; here it is framed as titillation and it is sadly no surprise that later the main female character answers the phone in just her pants for no reason. With both this collection and Savage: The Guv’nor, reviewed by Jonathan McCalmont, highly respected 2000AD writers look backwards on several levels; the results are ugly and they won’t entice this reader back.
- Savage: The Guv’nor by Pat Mills and Patrick Godard (Titan Books, 2012) – Reviewed by Jonathan McCalmont
- Stone Spring, Bronze Summer and Iron Winter by Stephen Baxter (Gollancz, 2010, 2011 and 2012) – Reviewed by Niall Harrison
- Adam Robots by Adam Roberts (Gollancz, 2013) – Reviewed by Dan Hartland
- Jack Glass by Adam Roberts (Gollancz, 2012) – Reviewed by Dave M. Roberts
- The Soddit by Adam Roberts (Gollancz, 2003) – Reviewed by David Hebblethwaite
- Among Others by Jo Walton (Corsair, 2013) – Reviewed by Shaun Green
- Wolfhound Century by Peter Higgins (Gollancz, 2012) – Reviewed by Duncan Lawie
- Communion Town by Sam Thompson (HarperCollins, 2012) – Reviewed by Mark Connorton
- The Peacock Cloak by Chris Beckett (NewCon Press, 2013) – Reviewed by Martin McGrath
- Solaris Rising 2, edited by Ian Whates (Solaris, 2013) – Reviewed by Andy Sawyer
- Existence by David Brin (Orbit, 2012) – Reviewed by Martin McGrath
- 2312 by Kim Stanley Robinson (Orbit, 2012) – Review by Gary Dalkin
- Redshirts by John Scalzi (Gollancz, 2012) – Reviewed by Liz Bourke
- Nexus by Ramez Naam (Angry Robot Books, 2012) – Reviewed by Paul Graham Raven
- The Curve Of The Earth by Simon Morden (Orbit, 2013) – Reviewed by Stuart Carter
- The Water Sign by CS Samulski (Booktrope, 2013) – Reviewed by Karen Burnham
- Dangerous Waters and Darkening Skies by Juliet E McKenna (Solaris, 2011, 2012) – Reviewed by Patrick Mahon
- The Legend of Eli Monpress by Rachel Aaron (Orbit, 2012) – Reviewed by AP Canavan
- The Iron Wyrm Affair by Lilith Saintcrow (Orbit, 2012) – Reviewed by Graham Andrews
- Hell Train by Christopher Fowler (Solaris, 2012) – Reviewed by Lalith Vipulananthan
- Whispers Underground by Ben Aaronovitch (Orion, 2012) – Reviewed by Anne F Wilson
- A Discovery of Witches by Deborah Harkness (Headline, 2011) – Reviewed by Cherith Baldry
- Railsea by China Miéville (Pan Macmillan, 2013) – Reviewed by Liz Bourke
- Dark Peak by JG Parker (Stonewood Press, 2012) – Reviewed by Sue Thomason
- Sea Change by SM Wheeler (Tor, 2013) – Reviewed by Mark Connorton
- Zenn Scarlett by Christian Schoon (Strange Chemistry, May 2013) – Reviewed by Alan Fraser
- The Mad Scientist’s Daughter by Cassandra Rose Clarke (Angry Robot, 2013) – Reviewed by Anne F Wilson
- Boneshaker by Cherie Priest (Tor UK, 2012) – Reviewed by Alan Fraser
- Apollo’s Outcasts by Allen Steele (Pyr, 2012) – Reviewed by Ian Sales